Many parents are once again struggling with how to make learning a priority despite school closures. Chances are that you live in a location that has either just announced school closures again, or perhaps they are leaning that way due to the steady climb of Covid-19 cases, related to the new variant of concern.
You as a parent may find yourself stuck in the frustration of wanting to keep your child safe while also wanting to be sure they are getting the education that they need at this stage in their life. I don’t think any of us thought that the pandemic would continue for so long, or that school closures and lockdowns would continue to be the method used to combat it. Yet, here we are. So the question is, how can you help your child continue to thrive with their learning, or even catch up, despite the inevitable school closures?
This is a huge topic, yet there’s not a lot of information out there about it. Doing a quick Google search doesn’t really reveal anything substantial, or helpful. Which is ironic, because education truly is key. Yet, education is one thing that has continually been placed on the back burner during the duration of the pandemic thus far.
What can we as parents and caregivers do?
As I previously wrote, none of us thought that school closures and lockdowns would continue to take place, especially not after two years since the beginning of this pandemic. It really puts things into perspective when you think of how a Kindergartener in the spring of 2020 is now in grade 2, and struggling to read. Or how a grade 10 student in March of 2020 is now facing graduation, feeling completely unprepared for university.
The pandemic has caused all of us to suffer, but no one more than our children. So many life experiences and learning opportunities have been missed. Will life ever return to normal? What even is normal anymore? Is it normal for your child to be falling behind? Will they ever catch up? What can you as a parent or caregiver do to make learning a priority despite school closures and lockdowns?
The First Step: Just Be There.
I get it, you’re frustrated and overwhelmed. For many it’s not just education that is affected, but also finances and mental well-being. Your mind is likely wandering a mile a minute, as you try to come to some settlement of peace. So, take a deep breath. Focus on what really matters. Sure, life is a crazy mess. But right now, in this very moment, are you okay? Is your family safe? Are your kids okay? Really focus on being in the moment. Focus on the laughter of your children. Talk to them, help them, because they’re also struggling with big feelings too. Make being there for your children a priority.
The Second Step: Find Ways to Ease Stress.
We don’t often realize just how stressed our children can be. The sad reality is that the pandemic, school closures, chaos and financial uncertainties has also placed stress on our kids. We like to think of them as “just going to be okay” but often times they are silently watching as their world seems to be collapsing around them.
Which brings us to an important point. And that is: Children cannot properly learn when they’re under a large amount of stress. As you probably already know, virtual learning often causes children more stress than anything else. This results in a lack of wholesome learning because of the stress that your child is under when trying to learn. Which is why finding ways to calm that stress is imperative.
Some helpful stress relieving tips include:
- Answer their questions honestly, and have conversations about their feelings.
- Let them know that you recognize that they are feeling stressed, and that it’s okay to feel this way.
- Contact loved ones, grandparents, family and friends. Let your child connect with them.
- Demonstrate how to take care of your own feelings in a healthy way.
- Help them with a mindfulness activity.
- Offer plenty of hugs and cuddles.
- Sign up for a Mindfulness Activity or purchase a Mindfulness workbook.
- Teach your child about how to manage their thoughts and feelings.
The Third Step: Create a Healthy Routine
Having a healthy routine is extremely important. Especially if you are aiming to make learning a priority despite school closures. It can be so tempting to just let everything go and continue life like you’re on holidays. While somedays that may be okay, it’s important to snap out of it sooner rather than later. Children need routine, it helps them to feel safe, while also helping them to develop important life skills.
Your kids and yourself have absolutely no control over the pandemic, or school closures. So, help your child feel like they’re in a little more control with a routine. Let them add in parts of the routine that they think are important, and be sure to honour that.
Routines aren’t just good for kids, they also have huge benefits for you as the parent or care-giver. Having a healthy routine has been proven to help parents feel more organized while simultaneously reducing stress.
You can add structure to your child’s day by adding smaller routines to your larger daily routine.
Early Morning Routine: Wake up, get dressed, eat a healthy breakfast, brush teeth, and encourage active play for a bit before school work.
Late Morning – Early Afternoon Routine: This is when your child can work on their school work, whether that be virtual learning or workbooks. For many children their school board has scheduled times of the day around virtual learning. So, their routine might revolve around those time slots.
If you have decided to homeschool during the duration of another lockdown, you can use this time to work on two core subjects like Math and Science. Reserving this time for lesson time, work time and a learning activity.
Be sure to add in lunch, and snack times! And if your child is participating in virtual learning, then make lunch and break times a big deal! Have fun with lunch time, play some word games while you both eat sandwiches. Try your best to make it as positive as possible.
Afternoon/Evening Routine: Once education time is completed for the day, encourage them to play outside, or in their room while you get a tiny break. If they just want to be with you, then try to make a new recipe together for dinner. Having fun together is one of the best remedies for stress. At the dinner table, ask your child(ren) what their favourite part of the day was, then aim to include more of that in the next day.
Bedtime Routine: Now it’s time for brushing teeth and bath time. Once that’s complete, be sure to have some snuggles and reading time with your kids. It’s so important to continue to carve out time for reading with each other as it continues to strengthen your bond.
The Fourth Step: Evaluate the Learning Solutions.
Many parents hear the words “Virtual Learning” or “Online Learning” and instantly cringe. Because this form of education is anything but wonderful for both students and teachers. If you’ve recently learned that your child has to do online learning, and you know from experience that it will be a disaster. Then take some time to evaluate this form of learning by asking yourself these questions:
- Is this helping my child or hurting them?
- Are they still learning?
- Is the stress from this even worth it?
- Are there other options available for learning?
Once you’ve answered these questions you will have a more clear indication about whether or not this form of education is actually working for you and your child. If you’re still unsure, write out a list of pros and cons. What are the pros to virtual learning, and what are the cons? If you have no other learning choices, then find out what are some ways that you can work together with your child’s school to make it more bearable.
The Fifth Step: Research Alternative Learning Solutions.
If you’ve evaluated your child’s education method, and are finding that it’s causing more stress than learning. But you are determined to make learning a priority despite school closures, then you should look for alternative methods of education for your child. You could consider a home-learning option. Remember this doesn’t have to be permanent, this can be a temporary solution until circumstances level out.
Determining what type of in-home learning curriculum will best suit your family is really important. You can learn about how to choose in-home learning curriculum here.
Staying on track with their learning is essential, which is why finding a curriculum that follows their grade level standards, and is easy to follow/teach is really important. Be sure to look for a learning solution that reflects that.
The Sixth Step: Start Learning.
It’s imperative that you remind yourself that learning is always happening. There are so many life lessons to be learned during any given day. So, please don’t stress yourself thinking that learning must look a certain way, because it often doesn’t. That is one of the reasons why virtual learning can can cause so much stress for some students. Education can’t be crammed into a box. For many, learning is hands-on. Learning through a screen with twenty other children going on and off of mute, isn’t always going to give your child the whole learning experience that they need.
Read stories with your kids, dive into a Novel Study. Bake cookies, clean the house, do art work, watch an educational show together, and play learning games! Don’t stress about how learning should look, just let it happen naturally.
Figure out what areas your child needs the most help with and make that a priority. Being sure to add in the extra areas of their education here and there. Just be sure to never overwhelm your child with information, aim to keep lessons short, simple and to the point. Dragging out a lesson just because you feel like it needs to be longer, won’t help you or your student. If your child is struggling with a particular concept, then take a break and revisit it again later.
The Seventh Step: Let Go.
Life continues to not go according to plan. Holding onto your ideas of what it should look like, will only bring you more disappointment. Embrace the way life is, even if it’s messy. Because if you continue to hold onto this idea of what you wish life looked like, it will only make it worse for you and your child. Letting go of the original plan, and working together to come up with a new, brilliant plan will be extremely beneficial for your entire family.
Whether you choose to give virtual learning another go, or you feel like you need to dive head first into homeschooling. Just know that whatever choice you make, it will be a good one for your family. Yes, sometimes you will have bad days, sometimes things won’t go as planned. And yes, you will absolutely make some mistakes. But you’re trying your very best to make learning a priority despite school closures and that is truly what matters.
Take a deep breath, focus on what really matters, and move forward.